Calls for ‘Scotland’s share’ of UK government’s broadband funding

Westminster has promised to deliver 10Mbps broadband to 100 per cent of premises, but Scottish properties are deemed 'ineligible'. Picture: PA
Westminster has promised to deliver 10Mbps broadband to 100 per cent of premises, but Scottish properties are deemed 'ineligible'. Picture: PA
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A funding programme touted as delivering high-speed broadband to 100 per cent of UK properties has been labelled “grossly unfair” for potentially short changing Scotland.

Rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing has written to the UK Culture Secretary calling for Scotland to be given its share of UK broadband funding.

The Scottish Government said Scotland would receive no benefits from the UK government’s Universal Service Obligation (USO) to deliver 10Mbps broadband to 100 per cent of premises, with all Scottish premises deemed ineligible.

Mr Ewing said it would be “grossly unfair” if people in Scotland were excluded from the USO despite contributing funding.

He has written to the UK government to demand clarity over what Scotland stands to receive from the obligation.

Mr Ewing has asked Matt Hancock – the UK government’s secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport – for confirmation the USO would tie in with Scotland’s own ‘Reaching 100 per cent’ broadband programme and allow the Scottish Government to access some benefits.

Speaking ahead of his appearance at the Scottish Affairs Committee tomorrow, Mr Ewing said: “This USO will be funded by industry, who are in turn likely to pass on the costs to consumers across the UK.

“If excluded from the USO, people in Scotland would get nothing back despite contributing funding. This is grossly unfair as this funding could be used to deliver additional benefits for Scotland.

“This is indicative of the UK government’s approach to broadband rollout thus far, which has been to ignore the needs of Scotland, particularly our rural areas, and instead rely on an entirely industry-led model, which would leave large parts of rural Scotland completely disconnected.”

The Scottish Government claimed in January it had met a key target to provide 95 per coverage in Scotland of state-of-the-art fibre broadband.

Mr Ewing said: “Whilst we are currently procuring our own £600 million ‘Reaching 100 per cent’ programme to connect all Scottish premises, the collaboration we seek would allow us to unlock significant savings to which Scottish consumers have a right. I have therefore asked the secretary of state for digital for clarity about whether the UK government intends to collaborate and avoid cutting Scottish consumers out completely.”

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the USO minimum speed would initially be set at least 10Mbps, but stressed that minimum level was expected to be increased over time.